Boulder County and the city of Boulder have amended their climate change lawsuit against two fossil fuel producers to add another cause for the action, alleging that both ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy engaged in a “civil conspiracy.”
In nearly identical language as it applies to both defendants, the Boulder governments — along with co-plaintiff San Miguel County — charge that the two petroleum companies “and their co-conspirators jointly targeted their fossil fuel activities at the State of Colorado, including through the co-conspirators based in, doing business in and/or incorporated in Colorado.”
The new cause of action, which runs the better part of nine pages, alleges that the defendants “had concerted goals to maintain and/or increase fossil fuel usage at levels they knew were sufficient to alter the climate, and to fail to disclose material information concerning their fossil fuel activities,” including the damage to the climate that use of their products would cause.
The men and women in America who make the products we use every day now contribute more than $2.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. As optimism in the manufacturing sector reaches historic levels, the industry continues to expand and hire more employees. But there’s a growing threat to manufacturers’ success in the United States: misguided litigation.
There has been a resurgence of lawsuits targeting manufacturers brought by plaintiffs attempting to hold them liable under the legal theory of “public nuisance.” It is a dangerous trend that could harm manufacturers of all sectors and sizes. Recently, this litigation has taken the form of public nuisance lawsuits blaming manufacturers for global climate change.
Lawsuits are now pending in California, New York, Colorado, and Washington against energy manufacturers. The plaintiffs claim emissions have damaged or will lead to harm to local municipalities.
Legal experts and manufacturers said climate change lawsuits like the one recently filed by Boulder and San Miguel counties and the City of Boulder against ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy would prove frustrating, costly, and time-consuming.
“Is it [litigation] the most efficient way of going about doing it?” Rep. Cole Wist (R-Centennial), Assistant House Minority Leader asked. “If we have consensus that this is an important policy issue that we should come together on and try to achieve solutions, there are better vehicles for us to do it,” he added.
There is a new phenomenon sweeping America. Attorneys general have become ideological ambulance chasers, racing to court to file politically motivated lawsuits seeking to mandate policies too extreme and unpopular to win the support of Congress, state legislatures, or the public.
From protecting sanctuary cities to demanding greater federal overreach into state affairs, certain AGs have sought to weaponize their offices, transforming from prosecutors and protectors of their state’s laws into a political mishmash of Don Quixote and Machiavelli. This is best highlighted by recent politically motivated climate change lawsuits.
Cities and counties in Colorado and Washington state are the latest to join California and New York City in a misguided crusade against America’s energy manufacturers. Their lawsuits castigate individual companies — some of whom do not even operate in the cities or states suing them — for global climate change, solely to impose financial penalties to justify perceived harm.
The stakes are rising for climate lawsuits filed by several California cities as more voices are weighing in before a crucial hearing scheduled for Thursday. A web of inter-related lawsuits has tried to make major energy companies, including Exxon and Suncor, and manufacturers financially liable for harms caused by climate change. The hearing is an attempt to have the San Francisco and Oakland cases dismissed.
“These cases are simply another example of trial attorneys attempting to enrich themselves at the expense of manufacturers and manufacturing workers,” said Lindsey de la Torre, executive director of the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP), a group supporting the oil companies.
“This complex issue will not be solved through a patchwork of decisions, but rather through meaningful solutions. We agree with the 15 state attorneys general and the Department of Justice who filed amicus briefs in support of the motion to dismiss in the San Francisco and Oakland cases.”
While new to many, Colorado celebrates a long history of collaboration to tackle the big challenges our state has faced. Colorado thrives because people from across our state work together, and our energy and natural resource development is a chief example. Here, some of the strictest government oversights of oil and gas production and energy efficiency requirements exist alongside strong agricultural communities and awe-inspiring outdoor recreation – creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and supporting our quality of life. We achieve all this because of Colorado’s spirit.
Unfortunately, out-of-state, anti-energy activists with ties to billionaire donors are trying to use our courts to undermine this time-honored cooperation, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs and endangering millions of dollars in taxes that fund local schools, law enforcement, and roads throughout Colorado each year.
The law firm pushing cities and counties to sue fossil fuel companies over climate change has apparently offered a discount to snag a client in its own backyard.
Hagens Berman is representing King County, WA, in the latest case that accuses major energy companies of creating a “public nuisance” by causing climate change-related changes to the environment like rising sea levels. The firm calls its Seattle office, which is managed by co-founder Steve Berman, its “flagship” of 11 locations around the country.
King County, Wash., filed a lawsuit yesterday against the five biggest oil companies for climate damages, the latest in a growing group of municipalities taking on the oil industry.
The county, which is home to Seattle and more than 2 million people, is suing BP PLC, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and ConocoPhillips.
The complaint, filed in King County Superior Court, seeks an order requiring the companies to fund the costs of adapting infrastructure to climate damages, like stormwater management and salmon recovery systems. The abatement fund could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, county attorneys said.
A small county in the state of Washington filed a lawsuit Wednesday targeting Exxon, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and several other oil companies for contributing to the effects of climate change.
The suit, which was brought by Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, seeks to create an abatement fund addressing changes to infrastructure, like bridge maintenance, salmon recovery and public health. It’s similar in scope and range to one Oakland and San Francisco filed in March 2018 against the same companies.
“[King County] does not seek to impose liability on Defendants for their direct emissions of greenhouse gases and does not seek to restrain Defendants from engaging in their business operations,” the lawsuit reads.
Republican attorneys general say they will aggressively fight a suite of lawsuits against fossil fuel companies over climate change damages.
The top law officials from three red states — South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arkansas — yesterday said they worry about cities and counties using the suits, which allege that oil companies’ greenhouse gas emissions have created a public nuisance, to set national energy policy.
“The courts are no place to determine national environmental policy, and public nuisance is not a theory that judges should employ in these kinds of cases,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R), who became the state’s top lawyer when former Attorney General Scott Pruitt became administrator of EPA, at a roundtable for reporters hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers.